Anti-HIV inhibitors based on nucleic acids: Emergence of aptamers as potent antivirals

P. J. Joshi, T. S. Fisher, V. R. Prasad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The development of resistance and the inability of currently approved antiretroviral drugs to completely eradicate HIV-1 have led to increased focus on therapies other than small molecules. Although nucleic acid-based intervention requires complex tasks involving intracellular delivery and/or stable expression in target cells, recent advances in gene therapy methods combined with continued progress in stem cell approaches have made nucleic acid-based compounds excellent candidates for effectively inhibiting intracellular targets. Consequently, multiple nucleic acid-based therapies are being developed. These include antisense nucleic acids, peptide nucleic acids and RNA decoys, which can interfere with HIV-1 replication. More recently, RNA interference, which exploits a novel cellular pathway, has been shown to effectively reduce viral titers in cell culture and promises to be a potential candidate for suppressing HIV replication in vivo. A promising candidate in the midst of these emerging approaches is the aptamer approach, which involves the use of a class of small nucleic acid molecules isolated from combinatorial libraries by an in vitro evolution protocol termed SELEX. Aptamers exhibit exquisite specificity, high affinity and the virtual lack of immunogenicity, features that make them exceptionally well-suited to combat HIV without affecting the host. The powerful nature of these specific antagonists of protein function could lead to the development of an effective anti-HIV therapy. Several highly specific, nucleic acid aptamers targeting select HIV proteins have been described. Investigations with anti-HIV RNA aptamers have shown an effective block to viral replication. This review summarizes the existing nucleic-acid based approaches to block HIV replication and attempts to chart the current progress in the development of aptamers against HIV, their use in inhibiting the virus replication, prospects for their use in the clinic and potential drawbacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-400
Number of pages18
JournalCurrent Drug Targets - Infectious Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2003


  • Anti-HIV aptamers
  • Antisense
  • Antivirals
  • Inhibition of HIV-1 replication
  • Resistance to aptamers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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